This week’s HTYH is the beginning of Shannon’s story: Most people have a childhood but I didn’t think I had one. I always felt different than other kids and I never seemed to have enough—I always wanted more. I was angry because my mother was killed when I was 4 years old and my Dad became very protective of his children and did the best he could, but sometimes when he was away too long our food ran out so I began to steal food from stores. My Dad was a pilot and frequently gone on lengthy trips and my brother was supposed to be watching me. He was a punk rocker and usually had a party going on with his friends when I came home from school. I was about nine years old and one of them handed me a can and I drank it, got sick, puked and wanted to do it again. The feeling was indescribable and I wanted more of that stuff even if it made me sick. My hair was matted from rolling in puke so they put me in the shower and cleaned me up.

Alcohol became my routine for the weekend along with abusing marijuana, LSD, PCP and other drugs. The alcohol and drugs magnified my obsessive/compulsive personality and it finally spiraled into shooting heroine. I did some really stupid things like sitting in a tree and reciting poetry. My dumb daily actions were causing me to drift ever further into a world of alcohol and drug induced illusion and confusion. I was also seeing a lot of things that a young child should never see. I ran away from home at age 11 and ended up in an abandoned house in the inner city of Los Angeles. There were a lot of homeless people there most of whom were passed out on mattresses that reeked of urine. It was the most disgusting place I’d ever been but I loved the freedom.

Some how my Dad found me there, he’s one of those parents who can find their child no matter where they are. My Dad’s alcoholism continued to escalate and he became a member of A.A., but I didn’t have a clue what that was. Whenever Dad left the house to go to a meeting, it took him two hours and that meant party time for my brother and I. When he returned home our eyes were red and so we told him that we had pinkeye. He wasn’t naïve–he knew what was going on and it really put him through hell. I drove him crazy and things started happening to me when I was 13, like waking up in the bushes with my underpants missing–I was a black-out drinker by then. Somebody would say, “Here, try this” and they would stick a needle in my arm. My favorite thing to do was drink vodka, shoot heroine and watch MTV. I would turn down the TV and turn up the radio and when the people’s lips on MTV synchronized with the radio—I’d say, “wow,” how cool is that?

I lived in Costa Mesa and it was hard to get heroine there, especially when you’re 13 years old. I used to give money to a junkie to buy me some heroine but when I saw him again he would be nodding out and he didn’t have my money or the heroine. I finally said fine, just take me there so I can get high too and so he did. My Dad was really getting nervous by this time but because he was gone a lot he had no way to keep me from doing whatever I wanted. I was crazy and one of the hardest things he had to do was let me hit bottom. He had a sailboat with teak wood interior and while he was gone I had a party on it and it ended up trashed—it cost him about 5,000 dollars to fix it. I was 14 years old by then and had shaved my head so he put me into a treatment center. I was really angry and he kept telling me I was just scared, but the more he tried to help me the angrier I got. The year before he sent me to a Girl Scout Camp but they kicked me out because I was angry and violent. To be continued…

John Barleycorn

The phantom writer of the column "Here's to Your Health". This writer is an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous and therefore must maintain anonymity. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer